Wall Street Journal - Port Authority Faces $22M Cut

News Article

By:  Pete King
Date: March 1, 2011
Location: Unknown

Federal spending cuts passed recently by the House would slash grants for antiterrorism work at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey by two-thirds, or some $22 million.

A preliminary breakdown of the budget bill passed by the House earlier this month would lower the Port Authority's share to $11.2 million from $33.8 million, part of an overall move to shrink the port security grant program to $95.5 million from $288 million. Final award amounts won't be decided until Congress passes a budget.

The cut to the Port Security Grant Program, though, is opposed by the top homeland security lawmaker in the House of Representatives, New Yorker Peter King.

"From a security perspective and a dollars and cents perspective, it's very shortsighted, it's dangerous, and it's wrong,'' said Mr. King, a Long Island Republican.

In past years, the Port Authority has spent the grant upgrading terminal entrances, among other things. It has also been shared with other government entities that indirectly help protect the ports, like the New Jersey State Police. A Port Authority spokesman declined to comment.

Mr. King voted earlier this month for the larger spending bill that would cut roughly $61 billion from the federal budget by the end of September. That vote set up a showdown with Senate Democrats, who oppose the type and severity of the cuts approved by the House.

If the two sides can't reach an agreement this week, the federal government could shut down nonessential services.

Mr. King said he has told leaders of his party that he will seek to replace the port security money as deliberations continue.

"We're talking about security for ports all around the country. The fact is this is a national issue,'' he said.

Already, there are signs of a short-term compromise on the larger budget fight, but that two-week measure doesn't address port security funding or more contentious budget disputes between Republicans and Democrats.

Long Island Democratic Rep. Steve Israel accused House Republicans of "blindly gutting port security and putting New Yorkers at risk.'' Mr. Israel said spending cuts were needed, but not in security funding.

The ups and downs of security funding awards can be a touchy issue, particularly for New York lawmakers who insist the area is shortchanged by funding formulas that unfairly benefit less densely populated, rural areas.